TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Books on Cocoa Programming

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Reviews

Books on Cocoa Programming

The field is filling in...

by Rich Morin

I've spent the last few months learning my way around Cocoa programming, using a combination of Objective-C and Perl. I'm not anything like a wizard yet, but I'm getting by and even starting to feel a bit confident. I have received lots of support from folks on assorted mailing lists, but these books got heavy usage first. "Read the Fine Manual", and all :-).

Whether you're just starting up the Cocoa learning curve or well along the way, I'd suggest that you consider getting some of these books:

Building Cocoa Applications: A Step-by-Step Guide Simson Garfinkel & Michael K. Mahoney

O'Reilly, 2002; ISBN 0-596-00235-1

622 pp.; $44.99

Cocoa Programming

Scott Anguish, Erik M. Buck, Donald A. Yacktman

SAMS, 2002; ISBN 0-672-32230-7

1245 pp.; $59.99

Cocoa Programming for Dummies

Erick Tejkowski

Wiley, 2003; ISBN 0-7645-2613-8

366 pp.; $24.99

Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X

Aaron Hillegass

Addison-Wesley, 2002; ISBN 0-201-72683-1

383 pp.; $44.99

Cocoa Recipes for Mac OS X: The Vermont Recipes

Bill Cheeseman

Peachpit Press, 2003; ISBN 0-201-87801-1

752 pp.; $44.99

Learning Cocoa with Objective-C (2nd edition)

James Duncan Davidson & Apple

O'Reilly, 2002; ISBN 0-596-00301-3

360 pp.; $34.95

Executive Summary

If you're just starting out, I'd recommend "Cocoa Programming for Dummies". Really. It's economical, a fast read, and will give you a quick and painless introduction to the main topics you'll be studying later.

Next, you'll want to skim the two O'Reilly books ("Learning Cocoa with Objective-C" and "Building Cocoa Applications"). You'll also want to keep them close at hand for reference. If you already have some O'Reilly books, you'll know what to expect from these: clean, solid presentation, consistent organization, good production values, etc..

With this background, you'll be ready to tackle any of the last three volumes. I found each of these to contained things that the others did not, but "Cocoa Programming" was by far the most detailed and definitive of the lot. In fact, if you can only afford to buy one Cocoa programming book, "Cocoa Programming" would be the best use of your money.

Cocoa Programming for Dummies

The goals and approach of this book are about as far from "Cocoa Programming" as it is possible to be. It isn't particularly detailed, let alone definitive, and screenshots fill many of the pages. Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile book. In fact, it's the best "jump start" book I've seen, providing a painless way for "newbies" to pick up the key concepts of Cocoa programming. Just be ready to buy some more books before trying to shift into second :-).

Although the book itself contains relatively little code, the supporting web site ( has quite a bit. In fact, it provides a 16 MB ".sea" archive with source code, pre-built packages, and more. The examples are all simple, but that's quite appropriate to the introductory nature of the book.

Learning Cocoa with Objective-C

Although I like this book, I was surprised by the number of typos and other small errors I encountered while reading it. I shouldn't be able to find dozens of glitches in any O'Reilly book; given that this is a second edition, I should be hard-pressed to find any at all.

Nonetheless, it's a good introductory book. It covers the basics of Cocoa, Objective-C, OOP, etc.. It won't take you very far into Cocoa programming, but it's a fine lead-in and will also be handy to keep around as a reference. Like "Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X", it contains a wealth of useful diagrams, which frequently help to clarify the topic under discussion.

Building Cocoa Applications

Although I found this book useful, it is not my idea of a "Step-by-Step Guide". After short introductions to Aqua and Apple's development tools (~60 pages each), it jumps headlong into three large "Applications":

  • "Calculator: Building a Simple Application (152 pp.)

  • "MathPaper: A Multiple-Document, Multiprocess Application (154 pp.)

  • "GraphPaper: A Multithreaded, Mouse-Tracking Application (150 pp.)

Each application is used as a vehicle for explaining certain aspects of Cocoa programming. For instance, the Calculator app is used to introduce "Nibs and Icons", "Delegation and Resizing", "Events and Responders", and "Darwin and the Window Server".

Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X

This book "splits the difference" between "Cocoa Programming" and "Cocoa Programming for Dummies". It moves a lot faster than one and a lot slower than the other. It has a nice sprinkling of screenshots, many useful diagrams, and a fair amount of detail. I'm particularly happy with the coverage of design techniques, programming pitfalls, and other "incidental" issues.

The writing style is quite informal and relaxed, but the content is very solid. If you can't afford to attend a course at "Big Nerd Ranch" (the author's training facility), you may find that this book provides a similar set of information, delivered in a similar manner.

Cocoa Recipes for Mac OS X

This book is based on the "Vermont Recipes" application, a "sampler" which shows off most of the simpler Cocoa widgets (e.g., buttons, drawers, sliders, tabs, and text items), complete with error-checking code and other niceties. , tab views, and drawers). It walks the reader, in painstaking detail, through the steps needed to reproduce and enhance the application.

The web site ( contains both the app and the project files that were used to build it. If you like to work your way through someone else's examples, this site (and the accompanying book) should be very worthwhile. Alternatively, the app provides a fast way to play around with a lot of Cocoa widgets.

Because my own approach involves blundering my way through my own projects, I haven't used this book (or any of these books, really) as the authors intended. Nonetheless, I was able to use it from time to time as a way to clarify obscure points of Cocoa programming and tool use.

Cocoa Programming

As noted above, this is a very detailed and definitive volume. In fact, I found it rather intimidating at first: lots of text, a fair amount of code, and only a small number of screenshots and tables. With time, however, I realized that this book was answering my programming questions better than any of the other volumes.

I like this book so well, in fact, that I'd like to see it expanded into two volumes. The first could be augmented with more introductory information (e.g., on Apple's developer tools, the Cocoa programming model, etc.) The second could concentrate on some of the more esoteric aspects of the Apple Frameworks.

Coming Attractions

Other Cocoa programming books are on the way. Some of these will fill in holes left by the current crop; others will attempt to supplant existing books. None of the current books cover Cocoa programming in languages other than Objective-C (e.g., AppleScript, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby, and Visual Basic); I know of at least one such book (on Perl) that is in development.

I would really like to see a detailed reference for the entire range of Apple's developer tools. I have spent far too much time trying to find information on Interface Builder and Project Builder; I'd love to have a single book that covers them, as well as some of the obscure tools in "/Developer/Tools" and "/Developer/Applications", in painstaking detail.

Rich Morin


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

AirPort Utility 6.3.6 - Set up and manag...
Note: Most recent release available only within OS X 10.11 El Capitan update. Use AirPort Utility to set up and manage your Wi-Fi network and AirPort base stations, including AirPort Express, AirPort... Read more
Quicksilver 1.3.1 - Application launcher...
Quicksilver is a light, fast and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone. Quicksilver allows you to find what you need quickly and easily, then act... Read more
Tidy Up (Five Users) 4.1.5 - Find duplic...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more
Mellel 3.4.3 - The word processor of cho...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
Skype - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Bookends 12.6.0 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Apple iBooks Author 2.4 - Create and pub...
Apple iBooks Author helps you create and publish amazing Multi-Touch books for iPad. Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All... Read more
Web Snapper 3.3.9 - Capture entire Web p...
Web Snapper lets you capture Web pages exactly as they appear in your browser. You can send them to a file as images or vector-based, multi-page PDFs. It captures the whole Web page - eliminating the... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.6beta10 - GUI for OpenVPN...
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
EtreCheck 2.5.1 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is a simple little app to display the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support... Read more

Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »
100 Years' War (Games)
100 Years' War 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Tower in the Sky (Games)
Tower in the Sky 0.0.60 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 0.0.60 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
hocus. (Games)
hocus. 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: New, polished, mind-bending, minimal puzzle game with dozens of levels and extra-ordinary design Features:- Beautifully crafted... | Read more »
Mos Speedrun 2 (Games)
Mos Speedrun 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mos is back, in her biggest and most exciting adventure ever! Wall-jump to victory through 30 mysterious, action packed levels... | Read more »
3D Touch could be a game-changer, but it...
Were you one of the lucky/financially secure enough ones to buy a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus over the weekend? Yup, me too (I’m not convinced I was either of those two things, but let’s go with lucky for now), so I thought I’d delve into just... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Bare Bones Software Releases TextWrangler 5.0...
Bare Bones Software has announced the release and immediate availability of TextWrangler 5.0, a major upgrade to its free, high performance, general purpose text editor for Mac OS X. Built on a new,... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s available for u...
Apple has Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2s available for up to $140 off the price of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Air 2... Read more
Save up to $100 on Mac AppleCare Protection P...
Adorama has 3-Year AppleCare Warranties on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - Mac Laptops 15″ and Above: $249 $100 off MSRP - Mac Laptops 13″ and... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $81 off MS...
Adorama has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2218.99, $81 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan, plus a free external DVD/CD drive, and a copy of Corel... Read more
12-inch MacBooks in stock for up to $120 off,...
Adorama has 12″ Retina MacBooks in stock for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. For a limited time, Adorama will include a free Apple USB-C to USB Adapter,... Read more
EasyDocScan Turns your iPhone or iPad into a...
Note-Ify Apps has announced the release and immediate availability of EasyDocScan 1.0, their new business app developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. EasyDocScan is a simple application... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for... has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1799 including free shipping. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (except for Apple’s $1699... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, includes...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, $11 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Feature Improved Durabi...
Upgraded components in the new iPhone 6s Plus cost $16 more than the components in the earlier iPhone 6 Plus according to a preliminary estimate from IHS Inc. The bill of materials (BOM) for an... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Payments Security Manager - *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments security manager to join the Apple Pay security team. You will Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Site Security Manager - Apple (Unite...
**Job Summary** The Site Security Manager is a high-profile security position at Apple . The Site Manager is the face of Apple Global Security (GS) and primary point Read more
*Apple* Fulfillment Operations Execution Ana...
**Job Summary** The AMR Apple Fulfillment Operations Team is seeking a talented team player to drive the Apple Online Store (AOS) fulfillment performance to ensure a Read more
*Apple* Distinguished Educator (ADE) Communi...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Program team as ADE Community Support Manager. Join a team Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.